CES 2015: NVIDIA Tegra Press Conference Live Stream

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 07:41 PM |
Tagged: video, tegra, press conference, nvidia, live stream, live, ces 2015, CES

Tonight at 8pm PT / 11pm ET NVIDIA will be hosting its annual press conference from CES 2015. While I fully expect the majority of the information to be on Tegra-related products, there is a chance they could slip in some GeForce products as well. I leave nothing past NVIDIA with a 2 hour window.

You can watch the live stream of the event right here and I am going to be live blogging from the event as well, pending Internet capability inside the conference room.

 

Live Blog NVIDIA CES 2015 Press Conference

 

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: MSI GS30 Shadow Notebook with Discrete GPU Dock Station

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 04:26 PM |
Tagged: shadow, msi, gs30, gpu, docking station, ces 2015, CES

Laptops with external graphics - we have been chasing this ghost for a long time everyone. We have seen them attempted through ExpressCard slots and more recently through Thunderbolt. MSI has a different plan with the GS30 Shadow - a physical PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot.

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The GS30 Shadow starts with a laptop - a 13.3-in 1080p design that is surprisingly slim and sleek. It includes a Core i7-4780HQ processor with Iris Pro 5200 graphics, 16GB of DDR3 memory, RAID-0 performance with a pair of M.2 slots and Gigabit networking. Battery life is likely pretty low on its own as there doesn't seem to be much space for a large battery.

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But what really makes the GS30 Shadow stand out is the docking station included. This is a base measuring about a foot long by 6 inches wide and tall. It connects to the laptop through a physical x16 PCIe 3.0 slot along the back of the machine and mechanically latches into place. There is a very old-style feeling to the connection - you pull a latch and use a physical lock button to keep it in place. But once installed, the GS30 sits on top of the docking station and is ready for use.

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The docking station ships with a 450 watt desktop style power supply and supports a full size, desktop-class dual-slot graphics card. Also included are a set of speakers embedded in the front, four USB 3.0 ports as well as audio input and output connections. You will also be able to install additional storage inside the docking station; it adds room for a 3.5-in hard drive.

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The GS30 Shadow with docking station will ship this month and has an MSRP set at $1999. If you value the laptop alone at $1400-1500 then you are paying a premium of around $500 for the docking station capability. This is another new device from MSI that we are eager to test and see if it stands up to real-world usage scenarios as well as it sounds like it might. Could we finally have a good option for mobility + gaming that works for gamers?

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: MSI GT80 Titan SLI 18-in Gaming Notebook with Cherry MX Brown Keyboard

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 04:02 PM |
Tagged: titan, sli, msi, GTX 980M, gt80, cherry mx brown, ces 2015, CES

Back in late October MSI announced the GT80 Titan gaming laptop that included an impressive array of features, the most interesting of which was the full-size Cherry MX Brown keyboard embedded in the chassis. Seriously.

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At CES this week we got hands on with the beast and I have to say I came away pretty impressed. Hardware powering the system includes an Intel Core i7-4980HQ processor, a pair of GTX 980M GPUs running in SLI, 24GB of DDR3 system memory, up to quad M.2 SSDs in RAID-0, Killer wired and wireless networking and more. All of that hardware sits under the top portion of the bottom of the notebook - the LED backlit Cherry MX Steel Series keyboard takes up the entire depth of the GT80 in the bottom portion.

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Despite its appearance, the GT80 Titan is similar in size to some of the other 17/18-in Alienware notebooks currently selling, but they obviously don't include a Cherry keyboard will full travel switches. MSI also claims that access to the system memory, M.2 storage, 2.5-in HDD location and optical drive through the top panel allows for reasonable upgrade options down the road. Even the two MXM modules for the GTX 980M cards can be changed through the bottom of the GT80. (Mobile GPU upgrades have always been problematic.)

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The GT80 Titan will be available next week and will start at $3299 with a $3499 option including the faster Intel processor. That is an incredibly high price for a gaming machine that is less "portable" than "transportable" but it would be hard to get more gaming horsepower in a smaller package anywhere else. We are looking forward to a review unit showing up shortly after our return! Stay tuned!

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: Samsung to Show New ATIV Book 9 - A Fanless Notebook with Intel Core M

Subject: Mobile | January 2, 2015 - 09:18 AM |
Tagged: CES, wqxga, ultrabook, Samsung, notebook, laptop, intel core m, ces 2015, 5Y10c

Samsung has announced their latest ATIV ultrabook ahead of CES, and it looks impressive. Boasting a sleek all-aluminum design and packing 2560x1600 on its 12.2" screen, the latest ATIV Book 9 is powered by the newest Intel Core M technology with a fanless design for silent computing.

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Beyond the Core M 5Y10c processor and Intel HD 5300 graphics, the Book 9 features a selectable 4GB or 8GB of memory, and either 128GB or 256GB of SSD storage. The notebook weighs in at just over 2 lbs (2.09, actually) and measures only 0.46 inches thick. The battery can provide up to 10.5 hours on a single charge according to Samsung, which would put it near the current-gen MacBook Air in that department (which honestly appears to be the direct inspiration for this notebook's design). Samsung hasn't skimped in the sound department, with a high-end Wolfson DAC for lossless audio playback.

You may have read Ryan's review of Broadwell-Y performance back in November, and the results for these new chips are impressive when considering the ultra-low power design. The processor in this Book 9 (the Core M 5Y10c) is targeting just 3.5W SDP (4.5W TDP) while providing up to 2.0 GHz with a 4MB cache. The extremely low power requirements from these 14nm parts will allow more fanless designs like this notebook going forward, though it will be interesting to see how performance scales under extended use without a fan.


Specs:

Display: 12.2” WQXGA (2560x1600), 350nit (max 700nit) LED
Processor: Intel® Core™ M 5Y10c
Graphics: Intel® HD Graphics 5300
Memory: 8GB (4GB also available)
Hard Disk: 256GB SSD (128GB also available)
Audio: PC-Fi (Wolfson WM5102 integrated)
Camera: 720p HD
Battery Life: Up to 10.5 hours
Dimensions: 11.19" x 8.37" x 0.46"
Weight: 2.09 pounds
Color: Imperial Black
I/O Ports: 2x USB 3.0, micro HDMI and SD, RJ45 (dongle), headphone/mic combo


Pricing: $1199.99 4GB RAM/128GB SSD, $1399.99 8GB RAM/256GB SSD.

Availability: Q1 2015 (listing already active on Amazon).

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Gets OTA2.1 Update

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 28, 2014 - 08:18 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, Android

NVIDIA has upgraded their SHIELD Tablet software to version 2.1. This release increments Android Lollipop to 5.0.1, updates a bit of bundled software, improves localization support, and adds OpenGL 4.5. The updated landed on December 23rd, alongside their Grid Tuesday release.

nvidia-shield-november-14-01b.jpg

The new graphics API is interesting, but its usefulness is a bit questionable. Google does not really support OpenGL on the platform, although they do not prevent companies (like NVIDIA) from providing their own SDKs. This could be a bit increase in performance for apps that are optimized for the SHIELD Tablet and possibly the Nexus 9, especially since its main features increase performance and security. On the other hand, this should increase the potential for NVIDIA's first-party releases and ports.

If you have the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet, then this is might be week-old news. If not, the update was released on December 23rd.

Source: NVIDIA

NVIDIA Launches Half-Life 2: Episode One on SHIELD Tablet

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 15, 2014 - 03:31 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, Portal, nvidia, half-life 2: episode one, half-life 2, google play, google, Android

Back in November, we published news about the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet update to Android 5.0. A part of the update was the “Green Box” promotion, which gives Half-Life 2, Portal, and Half-Life 2: Episode One free with the purchase of a 32GB LTE SHIELD Tablet. Today, Half-Life 2: Episode One launches on Google Play store for $7.99 USD (or free with the Green Box). Unlike Half-Life 2 and Portal, which runs on the original NVIDIA SHIELD, Episode One requires an NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet. It also requires a controller.

nvidia-shield-tablet-hl2episodeone.jpg

Like the previous release of Half-Life 2 and Portal, this is a complete port to the ARM architecture of NVIDIA Tegra K1. The game will run natively on the device, without being streamed from a host PC. For a little perspective, the Tegra K1 has a little more compute performance than a GeForce 9600 GT – a popular mid-range GPU that launched two years after Episode One.

Half-Life 2: Episode One launched today for $7.99 USD (or free with “The Green Box” bundle).

Source: Google

Only 1920x1080 or better need apply

Subject: Mobile | November 27, 2014 - 05:35 PM |
Tagged: 1080p, Chillblast, Prestige i5-4200SH, dell, Inspiron 17 7000, hp, Beats Special Edition, Lenovo, Yoga 2 13, toshiba, Satellite S70-B-10U

Sick of the standard laptop screen resolution of 1366x768, especially on a laptop with a 17" screen?  The Register has collected five laptops which have a 1080p resolution, several of which feature touchscreen capabilities for use with Win 8.1 and range in screen size up to 17.3". There is a variety of quality, the lower cost HP notebook does not feature an IPS display and so is not as sharp as some other models but then again it is not as expensive as the other models either.  There is not much in the way of benchmarks but it is not too hard to estimate performance based on the components which are inside these laptops as they are common among the current generation of laptops.  This review focuses on the screen, much like your eyes do.

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"For the more discerning eye, that’s just not enough, and while we’ll be looking at the more expensive HiDPI laptops soon, full HD laptops are certainly more affordable these days, especially if you’re prepared to trade having a high-performance CPU or a speedy solid-state drive for a crisper, higher resolution image instead."

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Source: The Register

NVIDIA SHIELD Gets Two New Games for GRID: Psychonauts and Red Faction: Armageddon

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 25, 2014 - 07:21 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, shield, grid, shield tablet, Psychonauts, red faction: armageddon

Last Tuesday, NVIDIA launched the November SHIELD update with Android 5.0 Lollipop, The Green Box promotion, and a refreshed GRID service. Regarding the last part, which is a game streaming service, they also committed to adding at least one extra title per week. Now, seven days later, they pushed two titles to the service: Psychonauts and Red Faction: Armageddon.

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While I have never played Red Faction: Armageddon, I did purchase Psychonauts for the Xbox and, later, the PC. It is a fun, linear narrative about kids in a summer camp that specializes in telekinetic/telepathic education for gifted individuals. If you have a SHIELD device, and you are able to play it on GRID, try it. Like it or not, it's free and does not require an installation.

psychonauts-screenshot.jpg

As will be the case until June 30th, access to the service is free for owners of the SHIELD and SHIELD Tablet. Future titles are expected to be announced on Twitter via the “#GRIDTuesday” hashtag. We will probably have a news post about them, too.

Source: NVIDIA

AMD Announces Carrizo and Carrizo-L SOCs

Subject: Processors | November 20, 2014 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: amd, APU, carrizo, Carrizo-L, Kaveri, Excavator, Steamroller, SoC, Intel, mobile

AMD has certainly gone about doing things in a slightly different manner than we are used to.  Today they announced their two latest APUs which will begin shipping in the first half of 2015.  These APUs are running at AMD and are being validated as we speak.  AMD did not release many details on these products, but what we do know is pretty interesting.

Carrizo is based on the latest iteration of AMD’s CPU technology.  Excavator is the codename for these latest CPU cores, and they promise to be smaller and more efficient than the previous Steamroller core which powers the latest Kaveri based APUs.  Carrizo-L is the lower power variant which will be based on the Puma+ core.  The current Beema APU is based on the Puma architecture.

AMD_Mobility_Roadmap_2015.jpg

Roadmaps show that the Carrizo APUs will be 28 nm products, presumably fabricated by GLOBALFOUNDRIES.  Many were hoping that AMD would make the jump to 20 nm with this generation of products, but that does not seem to be the case.  This is not surprising due to the limitations of that particular process when dealing with large designs that require a lot of current.  AMD will likely be pushing for 16 nm FinFET for the generation of products after Carrizo.

The big Carrizo supposedly has a next generation GCN unit.  My guess here is that it will use the same design as we saw with the R9 285.  That particular product is a next generation unit that has improved efficiency.  AMD did not release how many GCN cores will be present in Carizzo, but it will be very similar to what we see now with Kaveri.  Carrizo-L will use the same GCN units as the previous generation Beema based products.

carrizo_01.png

I believe AMD has spent a lot more time hand tuning Excavator instead of relying on a lot of automated place and route.  This should allow them to retain much of the performance of the part, all the while cutting down on transistor count dramatically.  Some rumors that I have seen point to each Excavator module being 40% smaller than Steamroller.  I am not entirely sure they have achieved that type of improvement, but more hand layout does typically mean greater efficiency and less waste.  The downside to hand layout is that it is extremely time and manpower intensive.  Intel can afford this type of design while AMD has to rely more on automated place and route.

Carrizo will be the first HSA 1.0 compliant SOC.  It is in fact an SOC as it integrates the southbridge functions that previously had been handled by external chips like the A88X that supports the current Kaveri desktop APUs.  Carrizo and Carrizo-L will also share the same infrastructure.  This means that motherboards that these APUs will be soldered onto are interchangeable.  One motherboard from the partner OEMs will be able to address multiple markets that will see products range from 4 watts TDP up to 35 watts.

Finally, both APUs feature the security processor that allows them access to the ARM TrustZone technology.  This is a very small ARM processor that handles the secure boot partition and handles the security requests.  This puts AMD on par with Intel and their secure computing solution (vPro).

carrizo_02.png

These products will be aimed only at the mobile market.  So far AMD has not announced Carrizo for the desktop market, but when they do I would imagine that they will hit a max TDP of around 65 watts.  AMD claims that Carrizo is one of the biggest jumps for them in terms of power efficiency.  A lot of different pieces of technology have all come together with this product to make them more competitive with Intel and their process advantage.  Time will tell if this is the case, but for now AMD is staying relevant and pushing their product releases so that they are more consistently ontime.

Source: AMD

Intel to Merge PC and Mobile Businesses

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | November 19, 2014 - 07:36 PM |
Tagged: x86, restructure, mobile, Intel

Last month, Josh wrote about Intel's Q3 earnings report. The company brought in $14.55 billion USD, of which they could keep $3.31 billion. Their PC group is responsible for $9 billion of that revenue and $4.12 billion of that profit, according to the Wall Street Journal. On the other hand, their mobile division is responsible for about $1 million – and it took over a billion to get that million. This has been the trend for quite some time now, as Intel pushes their square battering ram into the mobile and tablet round hole. Of course, these efforts could benefit the company as a whole, but they cannot show that in a quarterly, per-division report.

Intel-logo.png

And so we hear rumors that Intel intends to combine their mobile and PC divisions, which Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesperson, later confirmed in the same article. The new division, allegedly called the “Client Computing” group in an internal email that was leaked to the Wall Street Journal, will handle the processors for mobile devices but, apparently, not the wireless modem chipsets; those will allegedly be moved to a “wireless platform research and development organization”.

At face value, this move should allow Intel to push for mobile even more aggressively, while simultaneously reducing the pressure from investors to give up and settle for x86 PCs. Despite some differences, this echos a recent reorganization by AMD, where they paired-up divisions that were doing well with divisions that were struggling to make a few average divisions that were each treading water, at least on paper.

The reorganization is expected to complete by the end of Q1 2015, but that might not be a firm deadline.

Source: WSJ

Testing Updated NVIDIA GRID on SHIELD Tablet with Lollipop

Subject: Mobile | November 18, 2014 - 10:40 AM |
Tagged: tegra, shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid

In December of last year we took NVIDIA's GRID technology through some testing and discussed our experiences in text and video. At that point you were able to play 8 specific games under the guise of a beta program. The experience was pretty good and a definite improvement over my first attempt at streaming games (OnLive). Here is what I wrote last year:

Overall my experience with the first beta of GRID was very positive including both latency and image quality.  Yes, there were definitely times when we got a lot of macro-blocking due to bandwidth hiccups, but they were infrequent.  You could tell pretty much anytime there was motion on the screen that you were watching a video rather than native gameplay, but I think the effect is much less apparent now than it was when I first tried services like OnLive.

Input latency is also definitely seen, and was most evident in my testing with Street Fighter IV.  You can even see some of it in our video embedded on this post.  That is something that NVIDIA claims to have really optimized for with their integrated H.264 encoding on the server GPUs, but getting more servers in more locations will help tremendously moving forward.

Today, along with the official roll out of the Android 5.0 Lollipop software update for the SHIELD Tablet, the NVIDIA GRID service goes into official release. What exactly that means is up in the air, as the service is still set to be free to all SHIELD and SHIELD Tablet users through June 2015. What I can tell you is that the quality of the experience has been improved and the game selection has expanded quite a bit, with more to come.

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Setup of GRID is much easier now, as long as you have the appropriate hardware to get GRID service up and running. That means a SHIELD Portable or SHIELD Tablet with SHIELD Controller. These are the items that stand out beyond that:

  • Internet connection with at least a 10 Mbps download speed
  • Home network with 60 ms or less ping time to a GRID server
  • NVIDIA GameStream-ready 5 GHz Wi-Fi router

I have asked for the location of the GRID servers geographically, as that will definitely be a factor in your ability to get the appropriate 60 ms or lower ping time. (UPDATE: NVIDIA tells me that the current locations are Oregon and Virginia.) The list of compatible routers has been growing over the last year as well including some from Netgear, D-Link, Buffalo and ASUS. If you don't already have one of these routers, you can still TRY to use the GRID service but it won't be officially supported by NVIDIA.

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LEGO Batman 2

The games available to play on NVIDIA GRID has expanded as well.

  • Alan Wake's American Nightmare
  • Astebreed
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Borderlands
  • Borderlands 2
  • Brutal Legend
  • Darksiders
  • Darksiders 2
  • Dead Island
  • Dirt 2
  • LEGO Batman 2
  • LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
  • Race Driver GRID
  • Strike Suit Zero
  • Saints Row: The Third
  • Street Fighter X Tekken
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  • Trine 2
  • Ultra Street Fighter IV

There are some great titles in here including Borderlands, Saint's Row, The Witcher 2, the Batman games, etc. and if you haven't played them before then getting access to them for free is awesome. Even better, NVIDIA has committed to adding one new game each week between now and June of next year. NVIDIA upgraded the login / account system to move away from being associated solely with the device and instead uses your Google account login information to register save data.

games1.jpg

In terms of game quality and gaming experience, I would say that GRID continues to improve. I spent some time with DiRT 2, LEGO Batman 2, Street Fighter IV and The Witcher 2 and in all cases the games looked great, with very little macro-blocking or stutter. We tested on both our office connection (1.0 Gbps fiber) and my home connection (30 Mbps cable) and the results were pretty much the same.

For those concerned with latency of input, there is definitely still some there, most apparent in fighting game like Street Fighter IV. With Borderlands and Borderlands 2 being the only FPS games in the collection, you could likely assume that the twich-style actions of these types of shooters would be most affected. Titles like Street Fighter IV and DiRT 2, for those of us that don't consider ourselves experts, can be adjusted to; you can make your mind compensate for the added input differences of playing games locally.

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DiRT 2

With the SHIELD Tablet, another possible use for GRID is to play these streaming games on your TV. The tablet itself has an HDMI output and is capable of outputting 1080p to your big screen. With the SHIELD Controller you can get a true couch gaming experience with GRID; I am looking forward to showing this to my niece and nephews over the Thanksgiving holiday and getting some reactions and feedback.

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The Witcher 2

The other big news today is the release of SHIELD Tablet software update 2.0 that includes Android 5.0 and Lollipop, updates for the new GRID release and an updated NVIDIA Dabbler V2.0 program. We'll have more thoughts on that software update very soon but you can get more details on the upgrades Lollipop provides for NVIDIA's tablet right here.

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Update for November: Android 5.0, "Green Box", GRID Gaming Service

Subject: Systems, Mobile | November 13, 2014 - 02:48 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid, geforce grid

Today, NVIDIA has announced the November update for their SHIELD Tablet, which is really about three announcements that are rolled up together.

nvidia-shield-november-14-01_0.jpg

As expected, the SHIELD Tablet is getting a roll-up to Android 5.0 Lollipop and its new, “Material Design” style guide. NVIDIA's took the opportunity to refresh the SHIELD HUB (my shift key must think that this is an MSI announcement by now...) in the same design specification. While interesting, the two other announcements probably beat it out, especially the GRID streaming service (and how it relates to the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4).

nvidia-shield-november-14-02_0.jpg

But before we get to GRID, let's talk “The Green Box”. In May, NVIDIA sent us a green crowbar to mark the availability of Half-Life 2 and Portal on the NVIDIA SHIELD. These were full, native ports of the PC title to ARM and Android that is exclusive to the NVIDIA SHIELD. With the November update, Half-Life 2: Episode One has also been ported to the platform. The three games, Portal, Half-Life 2, and Episode One, are also packaged in “The Green Box” bundle, which will be included free-of-charge with the SHIELD Tablet 32GB. Note that, while the games are included with the tablet, they require a controller to play, which is not included.

Now we talk about GRID.

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Netflix is a popular service where people can watch a variety of movies from their rolling catalog. It will not replace ownership of certain, intrinsically valuable titles, but there is probably options for anyone who wants to consume some form of entertainment. GRID is a similar service for video games, and it is not the first. We took a look at a preview of OnLive in 2010, connecting to a server about 2400 miles away, which is over twice the maximum intended range, and found the experience somewhat positive for games except Unreal Tournament 3 at that relatively extreme latency. Another company, GaiKai, was purchased by Sony and rebranded as PlayStation Now. It will serve up a selection of games from the PS3 catalog. Again, content on these services can be pulled at any time, but if you are just looking for the entertainment value, something else will probably be there to scratch your itch.

nvidia-shield-november-14-04_0.jpg

The interesting part that I have been teasing throughout this entire post is the performance of NVIDIA GRID. PlayStation Now is rated at 192 GFLOPs, which is the theoretical GPU compute throughput of the PS3's RSX chip. GRID, on the other hand, is rated for 2448 GFLOPs (~2.5 TFLOPs). This is higher than the PlayStation 4, and almost twice the GPU performance of the Xbox One. On the PC side, it is roughly equivalent to the GeForce GTX 760 Ti.

epic-samaritan-ue3.png

This compute rating has a hidden story, too. Back in 2011, Epic Games demoed “Samaritan” in Unreal Engine 3. This was the bar that Epic Games set for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to mark a new console generation. When Unreal Engine 4 was unveiled at the end of E3 2012, it was embodied in the Elemental Demo, which also ran at (you guessed it) 2.5 TFLOPs. At the PlayStation 4 (1.9 TFLOPs) announcement, the demo was scaled back with reduced particles and lighting complexity. It was not shown at either Xbox One (1.3 TFLOPs) announcement at all.

epic-elemental-ue4-pcvps4.jpg

What all of that means is simple: NVIDIA GRID is the only fixed hardware platform (that I am aware of) to meet Epic's vision of a next-gen gaming system. I say fixed, of course, because the PC can over-double it per card, with some games scaling to four discrete GPUs. This also says nothing about the CPU performance, system memory, or video memory, but it has the GPU in the right place for a next gen platform.

nvidia-shield-november-14-01b.jpg

The NVIDIA GRID preview will launch in November for North America, with East Coast and West Coast servers. It will expand in December for Western Europe, and in “Q2” for Asia Pacific. The service will be free for SHIELD users until June 30th, 2015. The Android 5.0 Update for the SHIELD Tablet will be available on November 18th.

Source: NVIDIA

Raspberry Pi Gets an A+ for Education

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | November 11, 2014 - 03:27 AM |
Tagged: usb computer, Raspberry Pi B+, Raspberry Pi, Education

The Raspberry Pi was intended as a learning device. David Braben, previously known for Rollercoaster Tycoon and other video games, noticed that computer science education was lacking and he wanted to contribute to its advancement with a cheap, portable, and highly-programmable PC. Yesterday, the organization announced a new model, the Raspberry Pi A+, which is (theoretically) cheaper, smaller, and has a few better components. This announcement follows the release of the Raspberry Pi B+ from last July.

rasp-pi-aplus-2014.jpg

I say “theoretically cheaper” because, although the organization is touting a price reduction from $25 to $20 USD, that always depends on the reseller. MCM Electronics, one of the foundation's US-based distributors, is selling the A+ for its list price of $20 (plus an extra ~$10 in shipping, before tax). In the UK, however, the currency conversion works out to about $25 before VAT. That said, the UK is known to be expensive for electronics.

Whatever the price, the device is slightly improved. While it keeps the same, Broadcom BCM2835 SoC and RAM, the memory has been upgraded to a locking MicroSD card slot, the audio's power delivery has been improved to reduce noise, and the number of GPIO pins has been increased from 26 to 40. The latter enhancement will allow the Pi to interface with more, and different, sensors and motors for robotics and other embedded applications.

The Raspberry Pi A+ and B+ are both currently on backorder for $20 and $35, respectively, before a $10 shipping fee and any applicable taxes.

Samsung's Galaxy Alpha; hefty build, light on extras

Subject: Mobile | November 3, 2014 - 04:56 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy alpha, android 4.4.4

The Galaxy Alpha seems made for those who want a heftier version of a Galaxy phone, the 4oz phone sports a metal side gives it a more solid feel than the S5 and previous models.  On the other hand the USB, audio and and buttons on that band of metal are not waterproof unlike its siblings so there is a trade off.  The screen is a bit disappointing at 4.7" and 720x1280 resolution which is compounded by the lack of MHL A/V output from the USB port meaning you will need Chromecast or another solution to send A/V to an external device.  The price is very similar to the S5 and other competition, the features and lack thereof are what might drive your decision as it did The Registers recommendations here.  There is no word on its ability to bend as of yet.

samsung_galaxy_alpha_android_smartphone.jpg

"The Galaxy S3, S4 and S5 have all felt a bit too toy-like for their price tag. Technically impressive they may have been, but the build quality was, and is, too Fisher Price. The new Galaxy Alpha is Samsung’s counterpunch. It is a phone that tries to put aesthetics and build quality on an equal footing with the length of the specification sheet. Now who else does that? Oh yes."

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Source: The Register

Lenovo Officially Acquires Motorola Mobility For $2.91 Billion

Subject: Mobile | October 30, 2014 - 11:40 PM |
Tagged: motorola, Lenovo, finance, Android

Lenovo officially acquired Motorola Mobility from Google in a deal worth $2.91 billion (both cash and stock) today. Following the acquisition, Motorola will exist as a wholly owned subsidiary of Lenovo. Motorola will retain its headquarters in Chicago's Merchandise Mart along with satellite offices (including Silicon Valley) and approximately 3,500 employees. Note that Google will retain the majority of Motorola's patent portfolio along with the Advanced Technology and Projects research division.

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Lenovo now owns the Motorola brand as well as the Moto and DROID trademarks. Lenovo expects to sell 100 million smartphones within the first year following the acquisition. These smartphones will allegedly continue to feature a stock Android experience with a focus of quick OS updates. Specifically, this Motorola blog post states:

"We will continue to focus on pure Android and fast upgrades, and remain committed to developing technology to solve real consumer problems. And we will continue to develop mobile devices that bring people unprecedented choice, value and quality." -

Lenovo has indicated that it plans to aggressively pursue selling Motorola devices in China, emerging markets, and even stateside. That last bit is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the buyout. Lenovo has been producing smartphones for a couple of years now, and while the mobile devices have held promise, they have yet to be made available in the US market. Now that Lenovo owns Motorola, the company has the branding power, experience, and carrier relationships to bring their devices stateside in a big way. 

Google was not necessarily bad for Motorola but the potential conflicts of interest with other Android phone manufactures, I think, resulted in Google being much more reserved with Motorola when it came to producing new Android hardware. Now that Lenovo holds the future of Motorola, I think the company will be free to compete with new hardware running any manner of OS but especially Android. I'm interested to see where Motorola will go from here and the kinds of devices we'll see from the now Lenovo-owned company. 

Source: Motorola

MSI's GT80 Titan laptop with a mechanical keyboard coming soon

Subject: Mobile | October 30, 2014 - 03:38 PM |
Tagged: msi, GT80 Titan, mechanical keyboard, cherry mx brown, gaming laptop

The full details are still a little sparse but we do know one thing for sure, the MSI GT80 Titan will be the first gaming laptop with an integral mechanical keyboard, it also happens to be backlit.  The laptop is an 18" model and though it may look large in the pictures MSI reports it will be 17% thinner and 22% lighter than similar machines.  They have also incorporated the SteelSeries Engine with CloudSync to allow you to save and synchronize settings via SteelSeries cloud storage.  Check out the full PR below.

City of Industry, Calif. – October 30, 2014 – MSI Computer Corp, a leading manufacturer of computer hardware products and solutions, unveils the GT80 Titan, the world’s first gaming laptop with a mechanical keyboard.

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First of its kind, MSI’s GT80 Titan ushers the future of gaming by integrating a SteelSeries gaming keyboard with Cherry Brown MX switches into the 18-inch gaming beast. Mechanical keyboards provide superior tactile feedback, increases durability, and enhances overall gaming experience by eliminating key jamming even during the most heated battle sessions.

“Performance is key for gamers and the GT80 Titan will forever change the mobile gaming experience,” says Andy Tung, president of MSI Pan America. “We are proud to be at the forefront of the gaming evolution and will continue to provide solutions that deliver the most outstanding gaming experience in the world.”

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MSI’s newest gaming laptop uses standard Cherry switches and a standard keycap with 27mm of thickness, nearly 5 times of traditional laptop keyboards. It is also the world’s slimmest and lightest 18-inch gaming laptop, measuring 17% thinner and 22% lighter than its closest competitor. To fully optimize the keyboard, the GT80 Titan features an enhanced SteelSeries Engine with CloudSync, allowing users to save and synchronize settings via SteelSeries cloud storage.

Source: MSI

New 13-Inch Windows 8.1 Tablet Rounds Out Lenovo's Yoga Tablet 2 Lineup

Subject: Mobile | October 29, 2014 - 09:08 PM |
Tagged: yoga tablet 2, Windows 8.1, Lenovo, Bay Trail, atom z3745, atom

Lenovo made a new 13-inch Windows 8.1 tablet official today rounding out the company's Yoga Tablet 2 family. The aptly named Yoga Tablet 2 With Windows (13") combines the design and hardware features of the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro with the smaller 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2 (Android or Windows) siblings. This tablet lacks the Pico projector of the Pro model, but keeps the JBL audio hardware, QHD IPS display, and kickstand. It further adds a larger version of the Bluetooth AccuType keyboard seen on the 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2 Windows model. Aimed at productivity tasks, the Bay Trail-powered PC is equipped with additional memory and storage along with an ample 12,800 mAh battery rated at up to 15 hours of general usage (including video/audio playback and web browsing). It will be available for purchase next month for $699.

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The Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows 13-Inch is a 2.27 pound (tablet only) PC featuring a 2560x1440 IPS display, JBL audio with a Wolfson Master Hi-Fi codec (two front facing 1.5W stereo speakers with a rear firing 5W subwoofer), 1.6MP webcam for video conferencing, and a bundled AccuType keyboard cover. External IO includes one micro HDMI video output, one micro USB port, and micro SD card slot, and an analog audio jack. The tablet and keyboard are all ebony black which sets it apart from the other mostly silver-clad Yoga Tablet 2s.

Internally, Lenovo has chosen the quad core Intel Atom (Bay Trail) Z3745 clocked at 1.86GHz, 4GB of LPDDR3 memory, and 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded upon by adding a micro SD card up to 64GB. There is no cellular data support, but the tablet does include dual band 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 radios. A large 12,800 mAh Lithium Polymer battery powers the tablet for up to 15 hours, according to Lenovo.

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The tablet runs the full version of Windows 8.1 and comes with a one month trail of Office 365 (which recently started offering 'unlimited' cloud storage).

It will be available for purchase in November on Lenovo.com for $699.

I like the black design and the inclusion of a keyboard along with the usage of Windows 8.1 makes this a better choice for business users than the Android-running Yoga Tablet 2 Pro model. The specifications look pretty good for what it is, though I question how many Lenovo will sell at that price point. You can find older generation convertible tablets, even from Lenovo, running the faster Intel Core (Ivy Bridge and similar) chips in that price range not to mention regular laptops should you not need the hybrid/tablet nature. It is kind of in an odd middle ground between the budget Bay Trail devices and starter ultrabooks though the high resolution IPS display and audio do not hurt.

Do you think it has a place in the market and will you be picking one up?

*For reference, the 13" Yoga Tablet 2 Pro has an MSRP of $499 while the 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2 (Windows, with keyboard) has an MSRP of $399. The $200 or $300 premium (depending on the comparison) gets you (at least) a device with more memory and storage and potentially an added keyboard or a larger device.

Source: Lenovo

ARM Announces Mali-T800 Series of Mobile GPUs

Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 29, 2014 - 04:30 AM |
Tagged: arm, mali-T800, mali

While some mobile SoC manufacturers have created their own graphics architectures, others license from ARM (and some even have a mixture of each within their product stack). There does not seem to be a specific push with this generation, rather just increases in the areas that make the most sense. Some comments tout increased energy efficiency, others higher performance, and even API support got a boost to OpenGL ES 3.1, which brings compute shaders to mobile graphics applications (without invoking OpenCL, etc.).

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Three models are in the Mali-T800 series: the T820, the T830, and the T860. As you climb in the list, the products go from entry level to high-performance mobile. GPUs are often designed in modularized segments, which ARM calls cores. You see this frequently in desktop, discrete graphics cards where an entire product stack contains a handful of actual designs, but products are made by disabling whole modules. The T820 and T830 can scale between one to four "core" modules, each core containing four actual "shader cores", while the T860 can scale between one to sixteen "core" modules, each core with 16 "shader cores". Again "core modules" are groups that contain actual shader processors (and L2 cache, etc.). Cores in cores.

This is probably why NVIDIA calls them "Streaming Multiprocessors" that contain "CUDA Cores".

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ARM does not (yet) provide an actual GFLOP rating for these processors, and it is up to manufacturers to some extent. It is normally a matter of multiplying the clock frequency by the number of ops per cycle and by the number of shader units available. I tried, but I assume my assumption of instructions per clock was off because the number I was getting did not match with known values from previous generations, so I assumed that I made a mistake. Also, again, ARM considers their performance figures to be conservative. Manufacturers should have no problem exceeding these, effortlessly.

As for a release timeline? Because these architectures are designed for manufacturers to implement, you should start seeing them within devices hitting retail in late 2015, early 2016.

Source: ARM

Fancy a look at the MSI GS70 Stealth Pro?

Subject: Mobile | October 17, 2014 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: msi, GTX 970M, GS70 Stealth Pro, gaming laptop

Hardware Heaven just put up a quick overview of the new MSI GS70 Stealth Pro with the GTX 970M, i7-4710HQ, 16GB of DDR3-1600, a pair of Toshiba m.2 SSDs in RAID0 and a 1TB HDD.  The screen is 17.3" at 1920×1080 and for those using this as a desktop replacement the HDMI and two mini-DisplayPort connections will allow 4K or triple display setups.  It is less than 2cm thick but thanks to the all metal design it should not bend as much as certain other recently released mobile devices.  The benchmarks of a variety of games showed the i7-4710HQ to perform similarly to the i7-4800MQ but the real star was the 970M; check it out here.

To really delve deep into this new mobile GPU check out Ryan's review.

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"Last week NVIDIA launched their latest mobile GPU, based on their Maxwell architecture which powers the likes of their high end GTX 980. Today in our MSI GS70 Stealth Pro Review (GS70 2QE) we take a look at a laptop which uses the new GTX 970M in games such as Alien Isolation and The Enemy Within."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Google Nexus 9 Powered by NVIDIA Tegra K1, Denver 64-bit SoC

Subject: Mobile | October 15, 2014 - 01:10 PM |
Tagged: tegra k1, tegra, nvidia, nexus 9, Nexus, google, Denver

Along with the announcement of the Google Nexus 6 phone, Google is also announcing a new tablet, the Nexus 9. Sporting an 8.9-in IPS screen with a 2048x1536 resolution (4:3 standing strong!), a 6700 mAh battery as well as the new Android Lollipop operating system, perhaps the most interesting specification is that it is built around NVIDIA's Tegra K1 SoC. Specifically, the 64-bit version based on the dual-core custom built Denver design, marking that architectures first release in shipping product.

UPDATE: Amazon.com has the Google Nexus 9 up for pre-order in both 16GB and 32GB capacities!

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Tegra K1 using 64-bit Denver cores are unique in that it marks the first time NVIDIA has not used off-the-shelf cores from ARM in it's SoC designs. We also know, based on Tim's news post on PC Perspective in August, that the architecture is using a 7-way superscalar design and actually runs a custom instruction set that gets translated to ARMv8 in real-time. 

A software layer and 128MB cache enhance the Dynamic Code Optimization technology by allowing the processor to examine and optimize the ARM code, convert it to the custom instruction set, and further cache the converted microcode of frequently used applications in a cache (which can be bypassed for infrequently processed code). Using the wider execution engine and Dynamic Code Optimization (which is transparent to ARM developers and does not require updated applications), NVIDIA touts the dual Denver core Tegra K1 as being at least as powerful as the quad and octo-core packing competition.

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It is great news for NVIDIA that Google is using this version of the Tegra K1 (can we please just get a different name for this version of the chip) as it indicates Google's commitment to the architecture in Android going forward, opening doors for the parts integration with even more devices with other hardware vendors moving forward. 

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More than likely built by HTC, the Nexus 9 will ship in three different colors (black, white and beige) and has a lot of callbacks to the Nexus 7, one of if not THE most popular Android tablet on the market. The tablet has front-facing speakers which should make it good for headphone-free media consumption when necessary. You'll be able put the Nexus 9 into a working mode easily with a new magnetically attached keyboard dock, similar to the iPad accessories widely available.

The Nexus 9 weighs in at 425g (the iPad Air weighs 478g), will have 16GB and 32GB capacity options, going up for preorder on 10/17 and shipping by 11/03. Google will sell both a 32GB Wi-Fi and 32GB LTE model with the LTE version (as well as the Sand color) shipping "later this year." Pricing is set at $399 for the 16GB model, $479 for the 32GB model and $599 for the 32GB+LTE version. That is quite a price hike for LTE capability and the $80 gap between the 16GB and 32GB options is annoying as well.

 Screen  8.9" IPS LCD TFT 4:3 aspect ratio QXGA (2048x1536) 
 Size  153.68 mm x 228.25 mm x 7.95 mm  
 Weight  WiFi: 14.99 ounces (425g) LTE: 15.38 ounces (436g) 
 Camera  Rear Camera: 8MP, f/2.4, 29.2mm focal length (35mm equiv), Auto-focus, LED flash Front Camera: 1.6MP, f/2.4, 26.1mm focal length (35mm equiv), Fixed-focus, no flash 
 Audio  Front-facing stereo speakers, complete with HTC’s BoomSound™ technology
 Memory  16, 32 GB eMMC 4.51 storage (actual formatted capacity will be less)  
 CPU  NVIDIA Tegra K1 - 64 bit; Dual Denver CPUs @ 2.3 GHz 
 GPU  Kepler 192-core GPU 
 RAM  2GB LPDDR3
 Wireless  Broadcom 802.11ac 2x2 (MIMO)

 

 Network  Quad-band GSM, CDMA, Penta-band HSPA, 4G LTE
 Power**  6700 mAh Wifi Browsing: Up to 9.5 hours LTE Browsing: Up to 8.5 hours Video Playback: Up to 9.5 hours Wifi Standby: Up to 30 days LTE Standby: Up to 30 days
 Sensors  GNSS support for GPS, GLONASS, and Beidou Bosch gyroscope and accelerometer AKM magnetometer & hall effect sensor Capella ambient light sensor
 Ports & Connectors  Single micro-USB 2.0 for USB data/charging 3.5mm audio jack Dual front-facing speakers Dual microphones, top/bottom 
 OS  Android 5.0 Lollipop
Source: Google Nexus